Follow Schopenhauer?

You know I love quotations and here’s a golden that was being bandied about the blogosphere in recent weeks…

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788 – 1860

Fine words! Especially for the aspiring artist. Or are they?

Schopenhauer influenced a long list of thinkers including Friedrich NietzscheRichard WagnerLudwig WittgensteinErwin SchrödingerAlbert EinsteinSigmund FreudOtto RankCarl JungJoseph CampbellLeo TolstoyThomas Mann and Jorge Luis Borges. So that’s good. Or is it?

Some of his views, particularly on women, are highly politically-incorrect… “Woman is by nature meant to obey“.

But he also said, “women are decidedly more sober in their judgment than [men] are” and “are more sympathetic to the suffering of others“. How should we read such statements made in a different time and place and culture, none of which we can ever properly understand ? And are these statements truly contradictory?

Were these comments merely products of the thinking at the time and hence can be overlooked, if not forgiven? Or are they despicable under any circumstances? These sentiments still apply in large parts of 21st century Earth.

Should we take advice from someone so “tainted”? How shiny is that original quotation, now? Should we admire and respect one thing they said, when taken out of the context of their entire body of work? Should we condemn someone for some of their works and ignore the good? Can we pick and choose?

So, if Schopenhauer started tweeting, would we, should we, could we Follow him based upon that single tweet about talent and genius?

Or should we reject his entire body of work and Unfollow?

4 comments on “Follow Schopenhauer?

  1. I have no problem taking the quote out of context if it’s useful or insightful (it’s both), as long as we acknowledge that it’s out of context, or comes from a less than perfect source.

  2. I will follow Schopenhauer. I advise you to read more about him and his philosophy.
    I must say that one of the reasons I love him is his clarity (something uncommon in philosophy nowadays) and for his political incorrectness. I admire him for having different opinions to the rest of the world and not being afraid of expressing them.
    That said, it always surprises me how the racist and sexist quotes are unrelated or even contradictory with the philosophical system he built (which you propose to reject without even knowing it), based on the ideas of the Will, the equality of all beings in their suffering and the compassion as the foundation of ethics.
    Also as I see you judge philosophers based on handfuls of quotes instead of their entire thought I advise you to read his very modern opinions on animal rights and our treatment of them to balance your opinion.

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